Productivity Throughout the Return to Work and Beyond
They say necessity is the mother of invention. The transition to working from home required by COVID-19 regulations accelerated the development of new solutions, methods, and technologies to allow for effective remote work. The slow and phased return to work will require the same as many employees will continue to work from home while the office resumes some of its normal activities.
In fact, the future of the workplace increasingly appears to be the hybrid model. Studies have found that 74% of Gen-Z prefer either working solely from home or splitting time at home and work. However, only 12% of U.S. workers want to be home full-time, meaning most want to return to the office, but with significant changes. The golden number seems to be two home office days a week, and 74% of companies are planning to shift to more hybrid work post-pandemic.
Meetings can be understood as the heart of organizations, both big and small. Whether it be for brainstorming, presenting important data and developing projects, or building corporate culture and productivity, collaboration and connection between company members are essential for an effective workforce. This article will suggest methods and technologies that you can employ to facilitate effective, efficient, and productive meetings regardless of your employees’ locations.
The goal should not be to recreate the in-person experience online or vice versa. Your audience will have unique experiences depending on their method of attendance, and you can combine the functionalities of both types of meetings for a variety of means of information sharing, recording and interactivity.
There are more options regarding the format of hybrid meetings than in-person ones, which means more customization capacities depending on your needs and capabilities, but also the need for thoughtful planning to ensure your format supports your objectives.
Add & Extend Value
Hybrid models maximize the reach of your meeting by connecting the most amount of people. This format can also enhance content engagement, improve accessibility, and provide new content delivery and communication options for more effective engagement and use of time.
Cost and time savings are also made possible through hybrid models by reducing the office space needed and transit time for meeting members. Adding accessibility measures can also be done more easily using this model, allowing members to use technology tools to aid their communication.
Dispersion of hybrid remote participants among many locations can create several communication challenges. However, careful attention given to building face-to-face connections can easily mitigate these issues. Encouraging the use of small groups or pods can stimulate participant networking and team building. Just make sure to ensure equal opportunity and participation of all members.
It is also easier to connect with those outside your organization, allowing for your spheres of influence to extend beyond your company or campus.
It is an established fact that when employees have more options and flexibility in how, where, and when they work, job satisfaction is higher. Establishing measures, such as the hybridization of meetings, permits greater flexibility and thus actually enhances productivity through employees doing what is best for their unique needs and tasks.
If any lesson is to be taken away from this past year, it’s that flexibility is key to the resilience of any plan.
With the why established, now it’s time to address the how. Many innovative tools and technologies exist (many having emerged over this past year) to facilitate smooth, effective hybrid meetings for your modern office.
Not all video conferencing platforms are made equal. Additionally, some will be better suited to some meetings formats than others. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Google Meet have been popular platforms, but there exist many others with unique features that may serve your purposes better.
A few things to consider when making a selection are:
- How many people will be joining?
- How interactive does this meeting have to be?
- What format is the material that will be shared (if any)?
- How important are visuals? What will be displayed?
Considering the integration capacities of these various tools with the other platforms and technologies already in use within your organization will also help inform your decision-making.
Screens, speakers, and mics are the bare essentials for a successful hybrid meeting. Most people should have some form of these things in their home offices, but you may need to invest in some hardware for the office. By doing so, you can minimize the sense of distance between the members and help facilitate closer connection, easier and more efficient communication, and equal inclusion and participation.
Tech that takes too long to set up or that is unreliable can be distracting and frustrating, so be sure to factor in these costs when deciding what to choose. Some hardware is specially designed for hybrid conference scenarios, often with smart capabilities, where you can get the whole package in one purchase so you don’t have to wonder about integrability.
Good internet, lighting, and non-distracting backgrounds also significantly improve the hybrid meeting experience. Small upgrades here and there can ensure these elements are a part of every meeting session.
Meeting Scheduling Software
When people are all over the place, being organized is even more crucial than in normal in-office settings. Meeting room booking challenges are all too familiar to the average corporate office, and this issue becomes even more dire when people are moving about more than usual, as well as under social distancing regulations. Meeting scheduling software that makes organizing everyone’s schedules easy and includes helpful features such as reminders and integration capacities makes this all the easier.
Likewise, room booking software can help mitigate issues such as phantom reservations, double-booking, and false scarcity. Including information such as amenities of every room, accessibility, etc. Can make this process easier and minimize the need for last-minute room switches and scrambling to find needed components, improving efficiency and employee satisfaction.
Space Usage Data
Pairing these software systems with tech such as occupation sensors and other monitoring systems can make this process even more fool-proof. By providing a real-time picture of usage, people can make more informed decisions regarding meeting rooms, ultimately maximizing the efficient use of space.
This data can also be collected to be used in management decisions, such as which types of spaces are preferred, how much space is being used and when, which can help shape plans to maximize space efficiency.
The use of such systems can also benefit the safety and wellbeing of your employees as cleaning can be scheduled around usage, making the cleaning more efficient and the more sanitary.
With new employees signing on during the pandemic, as well as the increased need to maintain social distancing, knowing how to navigate a building is key. This is especially true with the increasing trend of office hoteling. Providing detailed maps of your spaces (if they’re interactive, even better) can improve the efficient use of your space, reduce confusion, and increase guest satisfaction.
With all these new methods and technology, your employees could get overwhelmed and become uncompliant or ineffective without the proper information and training. Setting up clear, concise training material in a variety of formats will help people learn and remember the new procedures.
Remember – your technology is only as useful as those who know how to make the most of it. Ease the learning curve with instructions and guides that can be widely distributed and also at the meeting sites. Employees will use the new technology to its maximum potential only when they are empowered by knowledge on how to do so.
Designing Your System
This article has outlined both the why and the how of the hybrid workplace. If you weren’t convinced before of the benefits (and even necessity) of this model, we hope you are now. Yes, there will be significant up-front investments and legwork, but the result will be a contemporary office attractive to the talents of today, as well as a resilient structure to cope with and support employees through the most disastrous of occasions.
As there is no simple design that will work for every organization, it is important that all decisions are data-led and informed by feedback from stakeholders. Designing these systems should be a collaborative effort, including particularly the input of those that will be using these systems the most. Anticipate tweaks and alterations to be required for a while after initial implementation, as you are guaranteed to overlook things at first and develop better methods as time goes on.
Change can be scary, but also change is human. We must adapt. Hopefully, this article has empowered you to see this shift to hybrid work as an opportunity rather than a burden, as well as provided you with the action steps and tools you need for a successful transition.